Grapevine: Frequent flyer

It’s fortunate that Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde is a good traveler who doesn’t suffer from jet lag, changing seasons or changing time zones.

‘POST’ EDITOR Steve Linde (left) with US Vice President Joe Biden. (photo credit: Courtesy)
‘POST’ EDITOR Steve Linde (left) with US Vice President Joe Biden.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It’s fortunate that Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde is a good traveler who doesn’t suffer from jet lag, changing seasons or changing time zones.
In a span of just over two weeks, Linde was on a state-to-state speaking tour of Australia as the guest of the country’s Jewish National Fund, helping to raise more than $1 million for the recently established pioneering community of Eliav in the Negev. He then went to National Harbor, Maryland, near Washington, to participate in the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America – where he met US Vice President Joe Biden, whom he found to be warm and gracious.
Biden assured him that he was as supportive of Israel as he had ever been. Linde also interviewed Ira Forman, special envoy of the US Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
In addition, he caught up with old friends and colleagues, such as former Post editorial staff members Hilary Leila Krieger, Rebecca Stoil and Yitzchak Besser, as well as Linda Scherzer, former IBA News reporter and former CNN correspondent on Arab affairs in Jerusalem.
Scherzer is director of Write On For Israel, a program of New York’s Jewish Week that promotes interest in Israel among top high school students, training them to become leaders in pro-Israel movements when they get to college.
Scherzer moderated a panel on Israel issues and challenges, on which Linde appeared together with Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn and controversial American columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, who famously leaked the highly insulting “chickenshit” remark by a US official in relation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Linde did not allow himself to get tired until he got home. Even then, he checked in with his many Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
■ WHEN HE was mayor of Tel Aviv, the late Shlomo “Chich” Lahat – an avid fan and supporter of Yiddish theater – was instrumental in the founding of the Yiddishpiel Theater, and came to nearly all of its production for many years after leaving city hall.
Last week, there was a gala performance of Nikolai Gogol’s The Inspector- General in his memory; bits and pieces of the text, written more than a century and a half ago, could just as easily apply to the Ehud Olmert-Shula Zaken saga. In its Yiddish version the play, starring Mike Burstyn and Yaacov Bodo, is called Der Revisor.
First and foremost among the dignitaries who came to the Arison Theater to see the show and honor Chich was his wife, Ziva Lahat, who had accompanied him to all past performances. Others present included Israel’s fifth president Yitzhak Navon; former MK and diplomat Colette Avital, who today heads the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel; singer Yardena Arazi; actress Yona Elian Keshet, who just happens to be the wife of Yiddishpiel director Sassi Keshet; Bar-Ilan University president Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz; former government minister Yossi Sarid; actors Tuvia Tsafir, Moti Giladi and Gabi Amrani; radio and television broadcaster Yigal Ravid; Shalom Seidler, who heads Wissotzky Tea; and many others.
Speaking from the stage, Keshet said that without this wonderful man, Shlomo Lahat, Yiddish theater in Tel Aviv would never have come about.
Veteran performer Monica Vardinon, who had been at all the rehearsals and some of the run-in performances, was unable to perform that night due to a serious accident that had befallen her in her home less than 24 hours earlier.
With little time to prepare, Ronit Asher took over the role. Director Tzedi Tzarfati was on an emotional high, following the numerous compliments he received after the show from a most appreciative audience.
■ STILL IN the realm of Yiddish theater, the Arbeter Ring in Tel Aviv last week honored Uri Kowalsky, a second- generation Yiddish actor who is the son of celebrated Yiddish actress Ruth Taru-Kowalska of Warsaw. Yiddishpiel Theater director Keshet presented him with a photographic collage of all his performances in the Yiddishpiel repertoire, and various actors of the ensemble expressed their affection and admiration for Kowalsky with songs and monologues in a tribute program designed for him.
■ THE JERUSALEM branch of the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites is inviting the public to tour Beit Hansen, which used to be erroneously referred to as the Jerusalem Leper Home. The tour will be guided by Rivka Regev, who spent a large part of her youth at Beit Hansen – where her father, Dr. Moshe Beer Goldgraber, was the resident physician from 1965 to 2003.
Goldgraber interested himself not only in healing his patients but also in tending to the gardens.
On his 90th birthday, Regev initiated a volunteer project to continue her father’s work in the gardens under the auspices of the Jerusalem branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Among the volunteers were people aged eight to 86, including a group of young men with Down syndrome working alongside Big Brother high school volunteers.
After inspecting the once-glorious Hansen Gardens, which were full of plants that were simultaneously beautiful and useful for medicinal purposes, the tour will continue to the First Station, which was inaugurated in 1892 and from which people traveling from Jerusalem went to Jaffa. The tour will be in Hebrew and will begin at 2:58 p.m. at 14 Gedelayahu Alon Street, close to the Jerusalem Theater.
Established in 1887 by the city’s German-speaking Protestant community as a hospital for people with Hansen’s disease, the hospital did not deal with the kind of leprosy mentioned in the Bible, and for this reason both Regev and her father always referred to it as Hansen’s disease.
Patients were free to come and go, as were their families. Following the War of Independence, Beit Hansen was on the Israeli side of the divide; in 1950, the Moravian Church, which had been running the facility, sold the entire compound to the Jewish National Fund. The hospital was taken over by the Health Ministry and renamed the Hansen Government Hospital. Improved medical treatments and technologies enabled the last inpatient to leave in 2000, although outpatients continued to come until 2003.
Hansen’s Hospital has in recent years become a cultural and educational center, but not all the promises made about its preservation have been kept. People attending the tour will get to hear the whole story from Regev.
■ US AMBASSADOR Dan Shapiro agreed to a request by Terry Hendin, coordinator of Skilled Volunteers for Israel, to be a “Skilled Volunteer for Israel” for the day at the Melabev English-Speaking Memory Club in Jerusalem. The primary purpose of Shapiro’s visit to the club this week was to be the guest presenter to one of the groups, where he shared some of his personal story and his journey to his current status.
Among the members of the Melabev Memory Club are several US Army veterans, who were introduced to Shapiro and told him where and when they served. Shapiro thanked them all for their service; the occasion was particularly poignant, as Veterans Day had been observed in America the previous day.
People of advanced age often allow themselves liberties which they did not take in the younger years; one of these is to speak their minds without worrying about being politically correct. Shapiro’s gift for diplomacy came to the fore again and again as he fielded comments and questions from some of the club members, who eloquently expressed opinions diametrically opposed to US foreign policy.
The club premises were decked out in red, white and blue, with peppy voices singing snappy American songs that emanated from some of the activity rooms during the visit.
Word-builder games seemed to focus on themes like “Mr. Ambassador.”
Club members enthusiastically prepared gift bags for the ambassador’s three daughters; the packages included items club members had made themselves.
Melabev staff explained the cutting- edge work and specialized therapeutic approach to individuals, their families and caregivers coping with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions of dementia. Prof. Arnold Rosin, distinguished gerontologist and founder of Melabev, and his wife, Prof. Marta Weinstock-Rosin, an Israel Prize recipient last May for her research in developing drugs to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, were present and also talked to Shapiro about their work.
■ THE WEEKLONG memorial marking the 20th anniversary of the passing of Shlomo Carlebach, the singing rabbi who brought so many young assimilated Jews back to their heritage, will be continued this weekend on Friday night and Saturday at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue – where services will be dedicated to Carlebach and conducted by famous singer Yitzchak Meir. The Jerusalem Great Synagogue’s regular cantor, Chaim Adler, is back at his old stomping grounds in the Tel Aviv Great Synagogue this weekend, where he will lead Friday night and Saturday services. This will be followed by a three-course meal with lots of singing on Friday night and a generous kiddush on Saturday, with Adler’s participation in both.
■ AT AN evening at Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People commemorating Greek Jews under Nazi occupation, a woman in one of the back rows kept repeating in American-accented English, “Wow! Wow! Wow!” What captured her admiration was the excellent Hebrew of Greek Ambassador Spyridon Lampridis, who speaks Hebrew without any trace of a Greek accent, but whose remarks in Hebrew were all too brief. He explained he was switching to English so that the visitors who specially came from Greece for the occasion would also be able to understand what he said. Surprisingly, very little was said in Greek by any of the speakers, though during the break, more Greek seemed to be spoken than Hebrew or English.
■ WHEN KNESSET elections are held in Israel, there is very little sense of public participation in enabling a particular individual to remain in or become a member of the legislature.
In party primaries, one sometimes gets a chance to vote for a candidate, but in the Knesset elections, the vote is for the party and not the person. This may account for the fact that so few MKs represent the interests of the electorate.
However, in talent and popularity contests, members of the public who want to vote definitely have a say in who will win – because in such cases, they’re not voting for a party but for a person. Time Out, the popular magazine about where to go and what to do, is conducting its eighth annual eat and drink competition in 33 categories, some of which are: best restaurant, chef of the year, best new restaurant, best vegan restaurant, best bar, best takeout and much more. Of the best chefs, it’s a given that the list includes Yonatan Rushfeld, Meir Adoni and Eyal Shani; some of the other big names are David Frenkel, Ran Shmueli, Yuval Ben-Neriah and Sharon Cohen.
By the way, the restaurants they run are not necessarily considered the best, and that’s what makes the whole contest exciting – in the same way the stars of the best film are not necessarily the ones who take home the Oscar for best actor or actress.
The winners will be announced at a gala event at the Tel Aviv Museum on December 14.
■ THE MOVENPICK HOTEL in Ramallah is hosting the fourth annual Palestinian Celebration of Innovation on November 23. The event has been highlighted as Start-up Weekend and “Palestine’s First National Demo Day,” in which top young Palestinian entrepreneurs will pitch their enterprises to foreign investors who may be interested in joint ventures. It will be interesting to see how many of those investors are Israeli.
■ FOR THOSE Israelis who are not afraid to visit the Jenin refugee camp, the Freedom Theatre and UNESCO Ramallah Office will be staging a performance there of Askadinya, on November 20 at 2 p.m., centering around the topic of gender-based violence. Throughout this month, several performances were held in the Jenin camp and city, to audiences from the area as well as from Kalkilya and Tulkarm.
Additional performances will be held in Bethlehem and Ramallah; the play has also been live streamed to an international audience.
The Askadinya project is carried out with support from UNESCO Ramallah Office, through the activities of the Palestinian Women’s Research and Documentation Center, funded by the Norwegian government in cooperation with the Palestinian Women’s Affairs Ministry.
It began with interactive theater workshops involving women in marginalized communities throughout the West Bank, and the play was devised from personal stories told by the women.
The name of the production is a play on words: askadinya, the loquat fruit; and azka dinya, the tastiest life. It is taken from a true story told by a woman who came to represent both the women in this project and the symbolism of the tree in Palestinian culture. It is also a question: What is the most tasty life – to be together, men and women as equals, or not? The Askadinya tree is an intricate structure with more than 3,000 roots, which work together to provide the tree with the strength it needs to yield fruit. It doesn’t ask for much – just that it be allowed to live, so that it can bloom in its full splendor year after year. Man is also compared to a tree in Jewish symbolism, and the underlying message is not to violate the dignity and right to life of either.
The Freedom Theater was inspired by a learning project established in 1953 by Arna Mer-Khamis, an Israeli Jewish human rights activist married to a Palestinian who established several educational centers in the Jenin refugee camp. Her son, noted Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis, suggested the creation of a drama project – and the Freedom Theater was opened in 2006 as a cultural, more productive form of resistance than violence. In April 2011, Juliano Mer- Khamis was killed near the theater by masked gunmen. The perpetrators have never been apprehended, yet his legacy continues.
Unlike many other Israeli human rights activists, who resist army service on the grounds of being conscientious objectors, Mer-Khamis served in the IDF as a combat soldier in the Paratroop Brigade. His mother’s cousin was Isser Harel, who headed both the Mossad and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
In a 2009 interview on Army Radio, Mer-Khamis, when asked about his identity, replied: “I am 100-percent Palestinian, and 100% Jewish.”
■ BEN-GURION University of the Negev will next week host the UN-sponsored International Drylands, Deserts and Desertification Conference from November 17-20, at its Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research. More than 500 participants from 60-plus countries are expected to participate. Experts presenting the latest in research, government officials seeking best practices and lasting collaborations, industry representatives and environmental activists creating coalitions to secure the world’s food stores will congregate on BGU’s Sde Boker campus.
Land degradation in the drylands threatens the food supply of billions of people around the globe; the conference will therefore focus on “Healthy Lands – Healthy People,” and will consider natural and anthropogenic processes, and the interaction between drylands and the people in and around them.
Additional sessions will focus on a broad range of topics associated with sustainable living in the drylands and the means to address desertification, as well as achieving the target of zero net rate of land degradation.
Panelists and speakers will include UN Convention to Combat Desertification special adviser Sergio Zelaya and former executive secretary Luc Gnacadja, along with Hebrew University Prof. Uriel Safriel, who heads the UNCCD’s Science and Policy Interface committee. The British Council in Israel and the UK’s Science and Innovation Network will host a multinational seminar, co-chaired by Dr. Nick Middleton of St. Anne’s College of Oxford University and Safriel, which will bring together British and Israeli scientists with colleagues from Kenya, South Africa, Mongolia, India and Namibia, and will look at the anthropology/ technology interface and new ways of tackling desertification.
The symposium marks the first official event in the Israel branch of the British Council’s ambitious Water Research Initiative, which will provide a platform for water researchers in Israel and the Middle East to work with their UK colleagues.
A dedicated day of educational field trips throughout the Negev will enable participants to view unique projects under way in the spheres of water, afforestation, public health, desert architecture, ecotourism and agriculture.
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